Fulham 2 Arsenal 1
Arsene Wenger’s smokescreen ranting about the referee shouldn’t fool anyone. This was a poor start to 2012 and one that brought our flaws to the fore.
Much has been made of the ‘game of two halves’ but for me it was a game of thirds – we won the first won and Fulham took the other two convincingly. After taking the lead and squandering a great triple-chance to double our advantage, we lost our potency and began being dominated by the home side.
Without Vermaelen to steer things, the defence and midfield was pulled out of shape easily and looked badly positioned more often than not. Think of the way Ruiz strolled through midfield shortly before half-time – it was clear at that point Fulham were the better team.
Fatigue has been pinpointed as a factor for the poor individual displays and considering the, surely, fresh Coquelin was our most impressive player suggests it is a valid reason.
But it isn’t an excuse for the failure to adjust things tactically to disrupt the Fulham pressure or at least keep possession more in the second half. It was clear we were keeping the lead more by luck than judgement but nothing was changed and inevitably we conceded.
It brings to an end a topsy-turvy run of Christmas results and performances. Two wins and a draw from trips to Villa and Fulham and home games against relegation fodder QPR and Wolves is a poor return. Add the preceding defeat at Man City to the list and that’s seven points accrued from a possible 15.
The longer our mis-firing continues, the more it makes you question the good form we showed during October and November. Were Van Persie’s goals really the sole cause of our upturn? The bottom line is despite the reinforcements made at the end of the summer transfer window we remain short of quality throughout the squad.